People's Police Report
Shootings & deaths
Police "Union," Housed Community Members Continue to Devalue Houseless Lives
Just after Portland Mayor Charlie Hales declared a "housing emergency" and acted to open more shelter space, the Portland Tribune ran an article declaring, "Police Passive With Homeless Population" (October 15). In the article, Portland Police Association President Daryl Turner said, " city officials refuse to provide the police with clear directions and support in dealing with... homeless people who violate city ordinances. " Although PCW is still hearing stories of camp sweeps, rude awakenings, seized belongings and other mistreatment on the streets, Turner claims city policy changed in part because of the US Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit calling to reduce use of force against people with mental illness. He claims the cops won't reach down to help a "squatter" get up from the sidewalk because they have to write a Use of Force report if they do.
The Tribune checked Turner's allegation with Assistant Chief Bob Day, who noted it would only be a Use of Force if there were a struggle. Unnamed Bureau officials said "prior to the DOJ settlement, an officer could go as far as taking a person to the ground and not have to file a [Force] report. "
Ibrahim Mubarak of rest area Right 2 Dream Too (R2DToo) suggests it is likely police are backing off and turning a blind eye to human rights violations committed by private security, including the Portland Business Alliance (PBA)'s "Clean and Safe" officers.
The article's timing was odd, as a large gathering of houseless folks who had been staying in the North Park Blocks, an area surrounded by expensive condos, had been swept out by the Portland Police in September after loud complaints from neighbors.
Meanwhile, under Hales' new plan, a small percentage of folks, particularly veterans, are getting housed. Not everyone is happy; on November 18, the Portland Mercury reported about a meeting with the PBA, Hales and the County Chair at which real estate bigwig J. Clayton Hering said the City should take away homeless people's shoes and give them one way tickets to Hawaii. In a KOIN-TV story announcing the opening of a new Portland homeless shelter for women at a decommissioned Army Reserve Center, remarks were made equating homelessness and crime, and calling the shelter a recipe for disaster (November 28).
R2DToo remains on 4th and Burnside. However, in early December property owner Michael Wright said he may evict the folks living there before they finalize plans to move to city property near SE Water Ave (Tribune , December 3). When a new camp, Hazelnut Grove, popped up on land owned by Union Pacific Railroad, Oregon Department of Transportation and the City near Overlook Park, the first two entities swept homeless people away. The camp is now just on the city owned portion. Despite backlash from the neighborhood coalition when the camp grew from 25 to 60 residents, Mayor Hales said they could stay while Council works on a new policy to allow more homeless camps.
Portland Copwatch is a grassroots, volunteer organization promoting police accountability through citizen action.